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Government should pay for removal of Grenfell-style cladding, say conveyancers

SLC says thousands of owners are trapped, unable to move, facing bankruptcy and contemplating suicide over the issue.

Richard Reed

The government should step in and pay for all remedial costs to replace cladding on high-rise apartments.

That is the call from the Society of Licensed Conveyancers (SLC), which says thousands of owners are facing bankruptcy and contemplating suicide over the issue.

The Grenfell fire tragedy has left leaseholders in affected flats unable to move or sell – and the SLC says emergency action is needed.

It is estimated that at least 500,000 people live in high rise buildings where major work is necessary to make the properties safe.

The SLC says if the government does not step in, the value of all flats in high-rise bocks could be blighted for years to come.

In a letter to Housing Secretary Michael Gove, SLC board member and past chairman John Clay says the remedial costs could be claimed back from the developers who are “responsible for the current mess”.

Fire tests predicted disaster

Mr Clay points out that fire tests carried out in 2004 predicted a disaster – 13 years before the Grenfell tragedy – but the government of the day failed to take action.

“At least 500,000 flats are considered too dangerous to live in and are unsaleable. Yet it is deemed acceptable to leave, what are often vulnerable people, to carry on living under these conditions,” he says.

“The government has committed to building 300,000 new homes every year – surely the priority must be to make existing homes safe?”

He adds that the housing department has not previously taken the situation seriously enough “in so far as those directly affected do not have any choice but to continue to live in apartments. Many of which have no value whatsoever.”

Private prosecutions “unrealistic”

In a further statement, the SLC says suggestions by politicians that the building owner should “take action against anyone responsible for dangerous cladding” are “deeply flawed”.

The society points out that once all the flats have been sold, ownership is “virtual” – and until the leases run out, the freeholder effectively only owns the land a block stands on.

Furthermore, it says prosecution of developers by leaseholders is unrealistic, as any such cases would be complex, involving huge legal costs.

The statement continues: “If insufficient help is given, thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of leaseholders will have to forfeit their flats to their freeholder or their lender.

“The majority of these leaseholders are not people with huge savings and in their current situation borrowing money is impossible. Most have invested everything to get on the property ladder.

“A recent survey showed many leaseholders are suffering from severe depression and 23% are seriously contemplating suicide.

“When so much of the current conversation is about levelling up, this cannot be right.”

October 15, 2021


  1. Tax-payers ( aka the Govt, my @r$e ) shouldn’t be paying to replace Dodgy, unfit material, – the companies who manufactured and installed it should pay. – and if they go bust deliberately, Chase the Directors, personally.

  2. Agreeing with Andrew. I’m clearly missing something here. If I buy a new car and it’s shown to have dangerous components, or a dodgy washing machine or whatever, then the manufacturer recalls and remedies the issue or risks prosecution if their product is shown to have been responsible for death or injury. I don’t understand why the manufacturers of the cladding aren’t being called to account and why the taxpayer has to pick up the bill. Can someone please enlighten me? They surely realised that manufacturing a material that had a flammable foam core was idiocy in the extreme. Why the hell would anyone think that it was a good idea to manufacture that for attachment to multi-storey flats housing hundreds of families? No doubt the manufacturers will, meanwhile, come up with an alternative material with a mineral, non-flammable core and will earn double-bubble at the taxpayers’ expense.

  3. If the government pay for the remediation crisis, then really it is the public tax payers who are paying for the cladding problem, and that seems illogical. Somewhere in the supply chain of plan, build, sale, and the stakeholders therein of the property asset is the culpable party or parties? Why should a tax payer renting in York pay out for the repair of a building that is unsafe in Birmingham, because the ‘government’ is going to underwrite paying for the mess. With tech we can deduce the ‘golden thread’ of accountability and trace back who should be ‘paying’ for buildings that should not have been built in the way they were. Cut through the noise, isolate the key players, and invoice them.

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